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Prisoner of the Devil

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Magnum, London, 1982
(price: 1.75; 314 pages)
(first published by Proteus Publishing in 1979)

dedication: In all humility and with the greatest respect I dedicate this story to the memory of
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
to the spirit of whose original conceptions I have striven to be faithful:
'I feel a second finger lie
Above mine on the pen.'

The blurb on the back:

It was a case that Holmes had refused, despite desperate pleas, nothing would compel him to take it on. Nothing...except the personal command of his Queen. Victoria's request sends the great detective on a perilous mission to Devil's Island. There he meets his client, the disgraced officer and convicted spy Alfred Dreyfuss, and is hurled into the most enthralling case of his career.

'In a different class from other 'newly discovered' Sherlock Holmes stories.' - Dame Jean Conan Doyle
'Recommended to any true believer...' -
Mystery Magazine
'Were it not that it would be treason to say so, I would say it was better than any of the 60 tales of the canon.' - Isaac Asimov

The first Sherlock books I ever had were the Short Stories and the Long Stories collections, but the next one was The Sherlock Holmes Companion by Michael & Mollie Hardwick. So I have a great fondness for Mr Hardwick - he introduced me to the concept of pseudo-biographies and the rest, which has helped fuel my enthusiasm for Holmes ever since.

This book, however, somewhat tries my affection. It's not badly written by any means, and the idea of Holmes looking into the miscarriage of justice in the Dreyfuss case is a sharp piece of inspiration, but it's a bit bloody ponderous. Watson starts off by warning us that, while other stories he's told us may have been infused with 'colour' and 'wit', we're to expect nothing of the kind here; this is 'a grim account of treachery, cupidity, repression and shame'.

So it proves to be. We get Lestrade and Mycroft and Mrs Hudson, but we don't get any jokes. And 300 pages of a Holmes story without humour is pushing it somewhat.

Well-intentioned but wrong.

Pipe rating:

sherlock holmes